Blunt Objects – Safe At Home?
Blunt Objects – Safe At Home? – Album Review
We’ll be wading in the era of pandemic tunes for many years to come y’all, I assure ya. Whether they directly reflect on the situation or document the history of who we were & what was happening at the time, or whether it’s a matter of new projects and bands starting out around 2020, we’ll all be sifting through the rubble of the mess for a very long time. Bill Owens is one of those examples…that’s when he started getting the recordings of Blunt Objects and his other band DID NOT! together…and you can infer tracks like “Uncharted” from his first album Safe At Home? are a reflection of the times that we were all living through, at least to a degree. For the first song of a first album…it ain’t bad…”Uncharted” is pretty catchy when it comes to the main hooks all said & done. As I’ve pointed out in the past reviews of Blunt Object’s more current music, track one usually seems to be a somewhat strange choice each time…and I suppose I’d put “Uncharted” in that category too. While there’s definitely a lot that I do like about it from the faux-strings at the start to the backup singing at the end, or the honesty in the lyricism, you can hear that the lowest parts of the melody are making big demands on Bill’s vocals, and that’s he’s basically got us holding our breath when we listening, wondering if he’ll reach the depths it’s asking for in the verses. While I’d say he just gets to where he wants to go in barely enough time, I’m sure he’d admit it ain’t the smoothest moment in music’s history…and that makes “Uncharted” a bit of a risk when it comes to its placement on Safe At Home? – you wanna make that gateway into a record sound like something that the people won’t be able to get enough of, so that they stick with whatever might come next. I don’t generally have a whole lot of criticism for this particular art-project of Blunt Objects, but it does feel like that opening slot on any given album is missing an opportunity each time I suppose. I do think that “Uncharted” has way more positives than any perceptible negatives…so there’s that…but I still feel like Bill could be choosing songs for that spot on his albums that’ll make things easier for him.
“Here’s Looking At Me” is an absolutely killer song to have written into a first album without a doubt. It eventually shows up on an album that DID NOT! put out last year too…so you can get the majority of how I feel about this tune by clicking here to read more about where this track ended up – but context matters y’all! Hearing “Here’s Looking At Me” show up on a DEBUT makes it all the more special if you ask me. While we’re all afraid to admit just how much of a narcissistic exercise creating ANYTHING can truly be, Bill takes on the spotlight directly by poking some fun at that fact. To have the balls it’d take to put that on a debut record though…that’s something else y’all…that takes real cojones. For all of the five Canadian readers from my own country that follow along with what I write here, imagine replacing that main keyboard melody with a bold guitar-line…you’d practically have a song by The Tragically Hip if Bill drew-out the vocals with a bit more of an exaggerated melody to go along with it. He’s already close to a Gord Downie-esque performance of his own in the way he sings this song…but if the music overall went in a bit more of a Rock direction here, you’d have a track The Hip would have been proud to play. I know what you’re thinking…you’re not one of the five Canadian readers that follow me, so what in the all heck is The Tragically Hip…and…I do not have the will or the want to educate ya on what you should have already learned somehow. Google the band, and then listen to everything they ever did. In their more playful moments, they came out with gems very similar to what you’d find in “Here’s Looking At Me.” In any event, I still freakin’ love this song and the way it accurately pokes fun of who we really are.
Dude’s a tripper…no doubt about that…Mr. Owens was definitely once a kid that grew up playing in a significantly different sandbox than the rest of the kids, you following me? If you need any further proof, I invite you to have a listen to “Took A Vote” for an audible explanation of what I mean. You see, when that pesky pandemic rolled around and tried to thwart our creative spirit, many folks that never had the time to make their art and/or music simply thrived…Bill’s a great example of that in action. To the point where, you listen to a track like “Took A Vote” and actually wonder if there’s ever a piece of music that comes his way that he’d decline to sing over, or what actually ends up on the cutting room floor. That’s not disrespecting the man, it’s a genuine compliment – I think most artists would have run far away from the music you hear on “Took A Vote” and never dared to work with it…and yet here we are, and Bill has. It’s probably fair to say that it’s not going to be the Blunt Objects song that convinces the mainstream masses that this is the project for them…but at the same time, when you listen to the way he’s structured the vocals to go with it and the familiarity you’ll find in the melodic pattern of the verses & whatnot…well…you might be surprised by the fact you’ll like this more than you think you will. Similarly to “Here’s Looking At Me,” it’s tongue in-cheek, and meant to be the fun it genuinely supplies. So lighten-up some y’all…turn up “Took A Vote” and have a listen, lest we vote you out or off the island next…Jeff Probst is always out there looking for another excuse to snuff a torch, so don’t give him one.
I really dig the way that “Here I Am Again” kicks in…and overall, I think it’s one of the strongest performances I’ve heard from top to bottom in terms of what’ll make this a complete experience for ya. Heck – you’ve even got Bill practically screaming on this track as well…which is new, and I dig it…I haven’t heard him to that much ferocity in his velocity before, and it’s a suit that he actually wears really well. I’d be hard pressed to find anything about “Here I Am Again” that doesn’t hit the mark though – I really think this was a great tune on the first Blunt Objects record, and that it still holds up strong now. Mind you…everything from this Bill Owens project has come out over the last year or so, so it really does make sense that if you’re digging something you’ve heard on one of his Blunt Objects records, you’ll like a whole bunch more tunes on others as well. This is great though y’all…”Here I Am Again,” would definitely be up there with my favorites in the catalog to-date, and it’s a track that provides yet another dimension to the sound of Blunt Objects overall. A bit more electrified, and with a bit more attitude and swagger on display…”Here I Am Again” is remarkably satisfying and highly addictive. To toss in another Canadian music reference for ya, I’d say you could put a track like “Here I Am Again” on an album like 5440’s Trusted By Millions and no one would really bat an eye…it’d fit right into a lineup like that record has. Which is impressive considering that Bill’s making his music all the way the over in Tucson, Arizona. If he keeps bringing Canadian music similarities to my mind, we might just have to adopt the guy, respectfully. While I’m at it…”Here I Am Again” ain’t too far removed from The Odds either…just sayin.’ It’s a great track for Blunt Objects though…and it’s the loosened-up approach that makes it that way.
You’ll probably find yourself relating to “Get It Off” – I know that I did. From the very opening lines that have Bill wanting to shut out the news, to the idea that he’s no longer able to share his own views…for real, I can relate to that big time and I’m sure you can too. I think we’ve all had enough of the news for the most part…I’m a political junkie outside of listening to music, and even I’ve had enough of the way that it’s become more of a tool for advertisers and narrative control, as opposed to sharing impartial facts like it used to back in the good ol’ days. So believe me Bill, I hear ya my friend. As for the sharing of views and whatnot…I suppose I do that here on these pages of ours quite a bit actually. Not to toot my own horn or nothing, but in this particular corner of the internet, I couldn’t really give a flying fuck about what someone does or doesn’t think about what I’ve got to say. There’s an armor that comes along with building a place where you dictate what the rules are, and it’s a beautiful thing, I gotta say. Out there in the real world…where like…half my family is crazy because of all that pandemic stuff, or all the friends I used to have that are too far gone from their belief that the illuminati is somehow a thing that matters to the average everyday citizen…what can I say…I basically keep everything to myself now. Which is probably a sign that the wrong side of evolution is winning the battle for our minds. It’s a lot more cowardly easier for me to not engage and spend every second fighting with people rather than try to win over another ignorant mind…I’ve thrown out enough life-rafts throughout my life already, and it’s time for a few folks to drown in a shallow puddle somewhere. Anyhow. I’m off on a tangent here…Bill’s music has been turning the wheels in my head throughout this whole month and I truly appreciate it. I feel very similar to the strength of “Get It Off” as I did about “Here I Am Again” – this is definitely up there with the best of Blunt Objects…I love the verses, I love the choruses, the whole vibe works, 100%. The downshifting melody of the main hooks is brilliant…to the point where you can almost hear a band like The National covering a track like this or making something very similar to it. There you go – they’re from outside of Canada and likely closer to Bill…based out of…Ohio. Is that closer? Where’s my map?
I’ve got notes here that say I’ve reviewed “She’s My Girl” before from a DID NOT! album before…so why don’t I remember that? Was it under a different name? I’m not ruling it out as I’ve definitely been listening to my fair share of tunes from Bill Owens as of late…but yeah…”She’s My Girl” sounds new to me and I don’t remember hearing this track. It’s got a genuinely sincere sweetness to it that you’d find in stuff like you’d hear from The LA’s…”She’s My Girl” is a lot more of what you’d consider to be a straight-ahead type of tune…and while you don’t find as many of those in Blunt Objects, it’s got a vibe that seems to suit this record really well. Accessibility ain’t a bad thing y’all…when you can stumble your way into that through what you create, it’s generally a big positive. As much as I might personally like the offbeat weirdness that can often be a part of the Blunt Objects experience, I’m not one to shy away from songs that just sound like they’ve got everything right where you wanna find it. The mid-section of Safe At Home? is tremendously strong with “Here I Am Again,” “Get It Off,” and “She’s My Girl” scoring back-to-back-to-back wins. The latter of the three might tread more thoroughly on terrain we’ve heard throughout music’s history and all, but “She’s My Girl” does it the right way…it’s welcome to the ears, and comforting. The “don’t get ideas” line is exceptional stuff…I love the way that works in this song.
I’ll put it to you this way…when it’s right, it’s right…and everything sounds like it was completely meant to be – that’s the effect of something finding a way to being universal. A track like “We Can’t Breathe” is undoubtedly more niche, but is still going to have a high degree of appeal to those that dig Blunt Objects. A song that reaches the intended core audience, more-so than a song that expands to reach everyone, like the previous three cuts could potentially do…it’s that kind of thing. I’m not opposed to either kind of tune, particularly because I’m a fan of what Bill comes up with…but yeah…I can hear that a track like “We Can’t Breathe” will appeal to a narrower slice of the pie…potentially. I suppose it COULD go either way for this song…I think there’s a real strong foundation to this tune that borrows a lot from the Post-Punk/New Wave era that’s incredibly understated, but present…and I’m all about that. Again, I think that’s a lot similar to what you might find in The National in that regard too…it’s music, but it’s also art…and as such, carries a largely interpretive & individual relationship with each person who’s listening. It’s an insightful tune though. Obviously with this record having been written in the thick of quarantine days, chances are a few folks will feel like “We Can’t Breathe” is about wearing a mask…but it’s about much larger concepts than that…more along the lines of what threatens to choke out the human spirit, and a reminder to appreciate the many things that make us all as beautiful & special & free as we are.
Conceptually, I love “Kingdom Of Lies” – it’s a song that perfectly outlines the many ways we’ve been gaslit over these past…hmm…I’ll say seven years or so – and let you do the math. The reality is, the “Kingdom Of Lies” we’ve created has been a much more slow and gradual build…I’m referring more to its acceleration and the point where it basically claimed the rest of society’s soul. What I’m way less sure about are the harmonies Bill’s working with in parts of this song…not the lower tones, but the higher ones…they’re like…I mean…they’re technically on-point, but provide weird contrasting tones that seem…difficult to absorb. Anyway. The meat in this sandwich is freakin’ TASTY…the substance you wanna hear in a song is everywhere you turn your ears when you listen to “Kingdom Of Lies.” “A shepherd with no remorse leads his flock to the brink” is one of dozens of poignant & potent lines found at the heart of this song. I’m not gonna say that “Kingdom Of Lies” came out to the full potential that it probably had when it comes to the sound overall…but I do think it offers one of the most unique vibes on the record, and could probably go on to be even more brilliant than it currently is in this particular version. “Insist on the truth” y’all – that’s sage advice, and wisdom that I sure as hell wish we could agree on these days. In the post-truth era that we’re living in now, “Kingdom Of Lies” reveals the blueprint & directions as to how we got here at the center of this confused & convoluted maze.
You know what else is good advice? Telling me to “Go To Sleep.” It’s like…somewhere around 3am here on the west coast of Canada right now…and it’d probably serve me well to get a few hours of shuteye before coming back to these pages again tomorrow, pretending I have some semblance of an idea as to what I’m actually doing with my life. “Go To Sleep” plays like a strange lullaby of sorts…and while I wouldn’t say it’s going to be the most universally accessible track on the record despite launching into “You Are My Sunshine” in the middle…I have the feeling a song like this is written more for one or two people to hear, as opposed to the rest of us. The lead is strong and well-executed…some of the layers seem like they’re in-line at times, and at others seem to color outside the lines a bit…but I have the feeling that’s just who Bill is and what Bill’s all about when it comes right down to it. I love that he tries many different things…and I love that he came out really fearless on this debut in what he chose to do with it…that uniqueness he’s got as an artist, resonates significantly throughout this entire lineup of songs. “Go To Sleep” is probably a bit inconsequential on the whole in comparison to the rest of this set – but I do think it’s a gentle way to end the record, and it worked for me. Most of all, I’m glad that Safe At Home? paved the way for a passion that has taken over Bill ever since, and produced many more tunes as a result…many of which, we’ll be talking about over this week to come here at SBS…stay tuned.
Time for me to take the man’s advice to heart and “Go To Sleep” before the damn sun comes up again.
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